The Logitech-owned Ultimate Ears has had great success with its portable Bluetooth speakers under the name Boom.
The latest addition is the UE Epicboom, which we review here. Calling a two-kilo portable speaker with a wrist strap epic is ambitious, bordering on hubris. But what to do when there’s almost no effect word in the English language that hasn’t already been used in conjunction with -boom on a speaker? Megaboom, Hyperboom and Wonderboom, to name a few.
Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is so ridiculously awesome for the price, that everyone should have one. Or two.
The UE Epicboom is somewhat larger than traditional handheld speakers and has an oval profile instead of cylindrical, but otherwise the resemblance to the Boom family is unmistakable. Most of the speaker is covered in coarse woven fabric. As Logitech and Ultimate Ears are environmentally conscious, the front fabric is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester, while the cabinet contains 59 per cent recycled plastic.
The speaker is completely waterproof (IP68). It can even play while floating on water. Weather protection is important in a speaker that will be taken everywhere.
There’s a built-in carrying strap on the back that can also be used to hang the speaker on a peg, branch or bike handlebar. When the strap hangs loosely, it magnetically snaps into place on the back of the cabinet. Now that’s neat.
The technical stuff
The volume is adjusted on the giant plus and minus signs on the front. On the top of the speaker, there are buttons for Bluetooth, on/off, track selection and “outdoor mode”.
Behind the non-removable fabric there is an 11-centimetre woofer and two smaller 1.5-inch drivers covering the midrange and high frequencies.
The number of built-in amplifiers and their output power is not disclosed. However, the speaker should be able to deliver a sound pressure level of 94 dB in its normal indoor mode. And 95 dB in outdoor mode, where the bass and treble are turned down a bit, as they don’t come into their own outdoors anyway.
UE proudly highlights that Epicboom has 360-degree sound, so that the sound can be experienced in the same quality by everyone around it. 360-degree sound is a buzzword attached to pretty much every small wireless speaker, and it simply means that it’s omnidirectional. Which can be fine when all you want to do is fill the room with a diffuse tapestry of sound.
In practice, the woofer is located on the front and the tweeters on either side. The most balanced sound is achieved by listening directly from the front, while the sound from the sides can be a little sharp. But the tonal balance can be adjusted from the Boom mobile app, which has a four-band equaliser. There are also a number of presets that each demonstrate how much better the speaker actually sounds in the neutral setting, called Signature.
Which brings us to why the UE-Boom series has become so popular and garnered so much critical acclaim: they just sound really good.
The sound of the UE Epicboom can by no means be categorised as hi-fi, but the sound signature is pleasant. Most importantly, the sound is relatively clean and free from the muddy and fuzzy sound that most small Bluetooth speakers suffer from.
If you want the sound from the home system in a to-go version, you should bring a pair of DALI Katch G2 with you on the trip. This kind of sound quality, however, comes at at price.
Compared to smaller speakers in the same series – like the UE Boom that started it all – the UE Epicboom sound a little more “correct”, thanks to a much deeper and fuller bass response. While the classic UE Boom doesn’t say anything meaningful below 80-100 Hz, here you can actually get usable bass down to the 50 Hz that Ultimate Ears promises. At least as long as you stay close to the speaker and don’t play too loudly. The frequency response of the bass is adapted to the volume so that it is as linear as possible at low volumes, while the bass is attenuated as the volume is increased – this is to avoid overdriving and to protect the woofer.
UE Epicboom can play quite loudly, but if you want to party and one or more friends also have speakers from the Boom series, they can be combined into one big sound system via the PartyUp function in the app. They don’t have to be the same model; most Boom speakers from recent years will work together. The maximum number of speakers that can be linked is not entirely clear. But at Logitech, they have successfully connected over 150 speakers in party mode. I didn’t have that many available, but two UE Epicboom together sound more than twice as good as one. And if you have two identical speakers, they can be set to play in stereo. Otherwise, the sound in PartyUp mode is mono.
For an impromptu garden or beach party, the ability to bundle multiple speakers is perfect. For home use, a set of UE Epicboom will face stiff competition from desktop wireless speakers. For example, you can buy a set of Argon Audio Forte A5 MK2 for less than the cost of two Epicboom. And hi-fi wise, they’re in an entirely different class.
The Boom app has built-in integration with Amazon Music and the lo-fi service Spotify. On a portable Bluetooth speaker, Spotify may be fine, but it would be nice to have alternatives, especially Tidal. The problem isn’t a big one, though, as the speaker will of course play anything streamed to it via Bluetooth.
The UE Epicboom is so much bigger and fuller in sound than its smaller siblings that it can kick off the beach party. And it’s so much lighter and smaller than the UE Hyperboom that you’ll actually want to bring it along. Unfortunately, it’s only slightly cheaper than the much more powerful Hyperboom. So if the main requirement is value for money, that’s an alternative to consider.
In terms of pure sound quality, Epicboom is still surpassed by the DALI Katch G2, which costs the same and also plays in (sort of) stereo. But it doesn’t have the same party factor and bass impact. Or the ability to blend in with many other speakers.